Content Marketing, Marketing Automation, Sales Enablement

Why Your B2B Marketing Needs an Early Warning System

The saying you snooze, you lose applies directly to marketing, but unfortunately not many marketers seem to realize this. Too often, they wait until the last minute to learn about valuable prospects or a customer that is on the cusp from leaving, and these delays can seriously impact an organization’s bottom line. Every B2B marketer needs an early warning system that helps turn leads into results.

Too little, too late

Modern marketers generally measure campaign success by closed won deals or via a near-term proxy, like Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). The problem with this is 4-fold. To start, it ignores and under-reports engaged users who simply don’t want to speak with Sales. These are the prospects that prefer to get their information self-serve rather than have it pitched to them by a sales rep. Thanks to the wealth of information on the Internet, the number of self-serve prospects are on the rise. Google found that business buyers do not contact suppliers directly until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete. These customers can’t be overlooked. Including self-servers in your campaign analysis will provide a more accurate picture of campaign performance.

Secondly, looking at leads later in the sales cycle makes marketing beholden to the judgment and behavior of the sales reps. Individual reps may not want to convert leads if they are not sure that it is a hot prospect, because their strategy is to focus attention on the best deals and keep their conversion rates high. Other reps may do the opposite and convert leads too easily, or they do so en masse , only after being confronted by marketing. Too many conversions can exaggerate a campaign’s effectiveness, which impacts where marketing allocates its future resources.

In both cases, marketing ends up buffeted by the sales cycle. Marketing works hard to generate leads, they are ignored at the end of the quarter as sales focuses on closing deals, and the leads go stale. This is a notorious sticking point in the sales-marketing relationship.

The third problem with measuring success this way is that marketing gets exposed to potential shortfalls in several processes, including lead pursuit, the pitch of the sales rep, messaging, etc. For example, let’s say marketing runs a great campaign that results in strong engagement with a free trial. If the sales development rep (SDR) doesn’t do a good job following up (i.e. waiting too long, sending emails with spelling error, or being rude on the phone, etc.), or lacks the visibility to see the positive results of the trial, then it could end up being canceled, despite strong performance.

If more SQLs lead to lower conversion rates, marketers need to focus their efforts lower in the funnel in order to close more deals. Finally, lead scoring approaches are typically very judgmental, with points assigned for prospects clicking emails, downloads, and visits to web pages. Rather than a scientific approach, lead scoring tends to be a best-guess affair.

Being proactive

The best approach is to let the behavior of your prospects serve as an early warning system to tell you whether your campaigns are on the path to success. This can be measured based on free trial or freemium subscribers who are actually using your product. Of course, you still want to measure whether they will turn into SQLs or paying customers, but looking at this metric reveals what percentage of prospects are really engaging with your product and which are not. This is important, because marketers need to know immediately whether a campaign is bringing in the right kind of folks. That way they can halt and re-calibrate a poorly-performing campaign before it’s too late.

To get this kind of visibility, you need to instrument your product to record customer actions and then tie that back to the campaign they came from. Preact creates this visibility by collecting this data, and connecting it with Salesforce or marketing automation systems like Marketo and Hubspot, so marketers can easily take the best action. This means no more waiting until it is too late to step in.

Customer retention is a critical part of any business, but many of the same methods can be used to ensure that prospects also have the best possible experience of your product. Our approach to reducing customer churn is also a powerful way to gauge early during the sales cycle whether a campaign is successful. This gives marketers greater insight into the ROI of their efforts, and empowers them to be proactive.

Early warning systems

In other fields, early warning systems are used to avert disaster. They catch diseases before they spread, warn people of an impending hurricane, or detect fraud before it wreaks serious damage. However early warning systems can also be used to gain an edge on the competition and deliver real ROI. B2B marketers no longer have to rely on intuition or wait until an opportunity has passed. Data and insight into customer behavior empowers marketers to be more proactive, and ensure no valuable lead gets passed by.

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